Assembly Process Defined America

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I am sure, during these woes currently strangling this country, that some of us have looked back and remembered what made this country great. One of those attributes was the assembly process. If you want to manufacture items with multiple parts in a short amount of time, then the assembly line method is ideal. There isn’t a faster way to produce a huge amount of consumer goods while also remaining efficient.

In a free-market society putting things together quickly is essential to meeting demand. America’s war machine used it to crank out instruments for fighting that made us one of, if not the best, militaries on this planet. Who do we owe this awesome technique to? Probably Henry Ford, that is who.

Henry Ford used the assembly line to make thousands of automobiles. Instead of building one horseless wagon at a time and maybe making ten to twenty a day. He started with 30 at a time with certain personnel doing specific tasks ending with 100 times the finished product. Moving on a conveyor, a frame would have the axle and wheels affixed. As that is happening, a drive train of motor and transmission is being installed. As quickly as all that was accomplished here comes another and another. On down the line the body is lowered and attached. A few feet more and a brand new auto is rolling off the line.

It is interesting to watch this process and the television entertainment industry knows this. With shows like ‘How It’s Made’, and ‘How It Is Done’, showing the assembly process making all kinds of things we take for granted and people watch these shows. The Discovery channel, the Learning and Science channels all feature these types of shows putting a different perspective of everyday items.

In a way, I get to watch these shows everyday. You see, I got very lucky some weeks ago and landed an assembly line job. I didn’t get to do what I applied for, but I secured work just the same. I am employed at a company who manufactures, among other things, residential air-conditioners and heaters. I was assigned a small job at one of the many AC lines. I was right next to the start of the whole process of making one type of a residential AC unit.

To the right of me, a person throws a small pallet on the conveyor belt and on top of that he fits a squarish metal pan. That’s the bottom of the unit itself. He takes four long bolts and puts them on the side of the inside of the pan. He then swings a little overhead crane to a stack of compressors. As he picked one up, he attaches rubber spacers to the four holes on the compressor provided for the four bolts. He then lowers it to the appropriate place on the pan and inserts the four bolts. Using a pneumatic drill, this person attaches the compressor to the pan. This is all accomplished in about 30 seconds. Then it comes to me.

I first take these rubber stopper plugs out from the compressor with some pliers. I then grab an L-shaped clip and screw it to the pallet. This attaches the pan to the pallet. A person across from me on the other side of the line does the same thing. I then attach two copper tubes. One to the compressor, the other I screw to the side of the pan. These tubes have a valve on the end of them. Those are the two things you see sticking out when a unit is attached to your home. It is where all the charging is done.

That person across from me has brings over the coil and places it into the pan. It has a small copper tube protruding from it in which I attach one of the tubes I install to the coil. On it goes to a brazier who torches molten metal to what I had attached to the compressor and coil. I then start on the next one and so on and so on. The unit then moves into a pressure test area making sure the brazier’s work was done correctly.

From there the conveyor takes it into an area where the electronic components are installed. Before one knows it, the unit has an exterior casing screwed around it and a shipping box is placed over the AC perfectly. Along with Styrofoam, the box is sealed and appropriate identification stickers are placed on the side. The finished, boxed unit is lifted by an overhead pallet jack onto a cart with all the other finished ones. This is whisked away by a small truck, which leaves an empty cart for refilling.

On a good shift, my line could make roughly 200 units in 8 hours. With many other lines also cranking out units, production rates are phenomenal. Remember, there are also three or four lines making heating units in the same building. And there are many other buildings at this plant. I have since been moved to the heating department of my building where I work in a sub-assembly area building heat exchangers for two heating lines.

That’s what feeds these lines. Parts. From screws to complex pieces requiring assembly first before it goes to the line. The personnel directly on the line are just half the process. For every person on the line there are one or more making or getting parts. Constantly. It is a dynamic that never stops and woe unto you if you are the reason it does stop. This story was a small taste of what built this country. The assembly line process defined America. It was and still is the ridges in America’s muscle definition that is viewed by the whole world.

Jeff Payne

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